Eradicating computer code constructs

Jan 18, 2008

The field of Computer Science often hovers between complicated computer code and online entertainment for the casual observer, but ePrize and Kettering University recently joined forces to debunk that notion.

No offices. No suits. No cubicles. Just rock t-shirts, peanut-shaped desks, Spongbob Squarepants, the Krusty Krab, Arnold’s Diner and lots of laptops. Can’t forget about the Peach Pit conference room either.

A studio for an animated Nickelodeon show? Hardly.

This is ePrize (, based in the city of Pleasant Ridge of Oakland County, Mich., a Kettering University cooperative education partner that specializes in providing companies interactive promotions to motivate specific consumer behavior to drive immediate, measurable results. With offices in Detroit, London, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Dallas, the organization is the country’s leader in tailoring innovative promotion and marketing strategies to help organizations increase customer loyalty.

Some of the professionals ePrize employs are those with Computer Science backgrounds to develop interactive, incentive-based internet promotions. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that those games they play online through company websites are the kind of things ePrize computer gurus revel in.  

Tim Downs of Albion,Ind., is a Senior III Computer Science (CS) major at Kettering University who also co-ops at e-Prize during his work terms. Downs, who grew up in the country on a horse farm, tinkered with the internet on his own and designed his own websites.

“I didn’t know much about Computer Science or what a CS professional did when I was in high school,” he said, a comment often echoed by many high school students. “I feel that most people in general have a misunderstanding of what Computer Science is. If they looked closer at it, they'd find that the subjects Computer Science students deal with (set theory, regular languages, Turing machines, etc.) are actually really fascinating!” he added.

As a high school student looking at colleges, Downs wasn’t sure where he wanted to go. He toured traditional universities in New York City and Santa Barbara, Calif., but as he put it, “they only spoke of giving me an ‘edge’ against competitors in the work place. Kettering, on the other hand, spoke of how their students were on a different level altogether at graduation. I came here because of the reputation of the school’s co-op program, which puts students on a plane that no other school can offer.”

His work at ePrize is challenging, rewarding and fun. Currently, he is a software engineer for the organization’s large platform group and his work revolves around loyalty programs for companies.

“I have great mentors in Todd Robinson and Mike Daigneau,” he said, adding that the two “have taken me from a lost college student to a professional software engineer. But they’re not the only ones. Everyone at ePrize takes an interest in what I’m doing. The employees take great pride in our culture of taking care of our customers and each other, which really shows.”

Some of Downs’ current projects include developing a message board product for ePrize. He also worked on an extensive web-based catalog manager that makes use of bleeding edge web technology, which, according to Downs, is an “industry-first and a project that some people said was not possible. But that’s exactly what ePrize is good at: doing things that most people are unsure of doing. I was in the mix of this project the entire time and it’s a great source of pride for me,” he said.

Downs said he chose Kettering because of the school’s exceptional reputation in cooperative education, one that dates back to the early 1920s. While on campus, he’s active in a number of organizations, including his fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha, the Inter-Fraternity Council and he plays on the school’s hockey club.

And although Kettering offers what some might consider a non-traditional academic experience, Downs said that if a prospective student asked about his experience, “I would tell them that if they’re going to college so they can have a successful career, the things that Kettering lacks—varsity sports, for example—do not matter in the long run. The things Kettering does offer, such as leadership opportunities in Greek life, do matter and Kettering’s co-op program will put you on a plane that no other school can.”

Written by Gary J. Erwin